I don’t remember their names yet I witness their shattered tree being placed in the old bent stand. Its wind-shorn branches supplicate to the sky. Placed beneath its boughs are a Red Cross box and stained pics, the bluegrass relics of father, mother and infant son— all exiles from my wife’s side of heaven, huddling like a modern nativity scene in my small garage— fleeing destruction for the construction humming around us.
Beyond the entry door exists an evergreen assembled from numbered parts, and underneath, presents for us to be regifted to them. The mechanical star atop the fir’s crown glows bright and colored lights blink with a rainbow’s promise. One by one we kneel down searching for our gifts and others to pass around. Silent Night and Joy to the World sing from a predetermined playlist— while, demanding our silence, the chiming winds outside echoes our shared history.
The mother unwraps from paper containing angels a night dress two sizes too big; the father— a warehouse package of black socks, gray and white T-shirts and two pairs of jogging pants; the infant, not yet young enough to really know the world except in sensory delights, is swaddled in his new blanket with toy dog breeds barking on it that is big enough to dry a Skye Terrier. He giggles with delight as he sees and reaches for the star.
The father leaves, returning with two pictures he gives to my wife. They both have their younger selves separated by twenty years of time smiling and hugging each other in front of old and new houses. The mother cries a tear that seems to last until the new year, weeps for these sole rich things generously given her. And we all weep too.
At this moment, in this place we exist beyond names, removed from our unmade past, beyond the map of places that no longer exists, existing proudly in the hurting-joyful now, the hope and promise of a rainbow future.